Comparisons and interpretations of charcoal and organic matter radiocarbon ages from buried soils in North Central Colorado,USA

James H. Mayer, George S. Burr, Vance T. Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

The reliability of radiocarbon ages based on soil organic matter (SOM) from Holocene buried soils in Middle Park, Colorado, is assessed by comparison with ages of charcoal. On average, 14C ages of SOM from buried surface horizons are 880 ± 230 14C yr younger than charcoal ages from the same horizon. Humic acid (HA) and low-temperature (400 °C) combustion residue (LT) fractions are 390 ± 230 and 1290 ± 230 14C yr younger than charcoal ages, respectively, and HA ages are on average 860 ± 140 14C yr older than LT fractions. We interpret the offsets between 14C ages of charcoal and SOM fractions and the consistent offsets between the HA and LT fractions to reflect the duration of pedogenesis and different residence times of the SOM fractions examined here. The stratigraphic coherence of charcoal 14C ages suggests short residence time on the landscape, with little subsequent reworking. 14C ages of HA and LT fractions are complimentary to charcoal, and HA ages are interpreted to represent minimum ages for the onset of pedogenesis and LT ages are considered maximum ages for burial. The 14C chronology from buried soils indicates an episode of hillslope erosion in Middle Park during the early Holocene, followed by a long period of land surface stability and soil formation between 9000-4500 BP. Two episodes of late Holocene hillslope erosion between 3500-2500 and 1000-500 BP correspond with warming recognized in the Colorado Front Range, while surface stability and soil formation between 2500-1000 BP is contemporaneous with evidence for cooling at higher elevations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-346
Number of pages16
JournalRadiocarbon
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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